For divorcing parties, the topic of child custody WA can be quite stressful. WA is the Australian state of Western Australia. There are many topics that fall under child custody in WA.
Understanding best interests of the child, parental responsibility, parenting plans and orders is essential for parties wondering about child custody in WA.
In Australia, we don’t use the term ‘custody’ very often. But, we will be using it in this article to mean rights related to visiting the child, and having access to the child following a divorce or separation.
In this article, we explore various points related to child custody in WA. Let’s first begin with, what exactly do we mean by child custody in WA?
Child Custody In WA: What Does This Mean?
When we discuss child custody in WA, or in Australia, we generally use the terms parental responsibility. Section 61B of the Family Law Act defines parental responsibility as follows:
Parental responsibility is all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that parents have in relation to their child.
In Australian family law legislation, people often assert that the word ‘custody’ has negative connotations. Our legislation places all focus on the child. Therefore, the emphasis shifts from “custody” to parental responsibility.
Moreover, according to family law legislation in Australia, the child benefits from having a relationship with both his/her parents. Section 60CC of the Family Law Act (1975) titled “best interests of the child” states the aforementioned point.
Based on this, family courts state that both parents have equal shared parental responsibility. According to Section 61DA of the Family Law Act (1975) the courts apply the presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for both parents to have equal shared parental responsibility.
When we talk about child custody in WA, we are essentially talking about parental responsibility, and whether a parent has sole parental responsibility, or whether they share equal parental responsibility.
These matters differ from case to case depending on the circumstances of the matter.
Child Custody WA: Sole Custody
Sole custody means only one parent will have custody of the child. In other words, the parent will have sole parental responsibility. This means that only that parent will have authority to make short-term and long-term decisions in the child’s life.
These decisions could include things like schooling, health related matters, housing, and other important matters.
A parent has sole parental responsibility in cases where the other parent has engaged in family or domestic violence. Courts will grant sole parental responsibility to a parent only in extremely serious cases.
If the other parent has exposed the child to violence or subjected the child to abuse, harm or neglect, then the court will consider allowing the other parent to have sole custody of the child.
However, this can be rare because, as mentioned above, family law legislation promotes the child to have a healthy relationship with both his/her parents.
Moreover, sole child custody in WA does not necessarily mean that the other parent cannot have any contact with the child. In fact, even when granting sole parental responsibility to a parent, the court will ensure that arrangements are in place for the child to communicate with the non-custodial parent.
However, courts can make no contact orders if the case is very serious where the non-custodial parent has physical or sexually abused the child. Sometimes, courts may permit supervised visits, depending purely on the individual circumstances of the case.
Parenting Plans And Consent Orders
Court orders are only one way in finalising child custody matters. Divorced or separated parties can also make their own parenting plans. In case they have had an amicable split, the two parties can discuss ways in which they can split child custody.
Depending on their discussion, they can make informal parenting plans that can include information about child custody such as who the child will live with, how much time each parent will get with the child, how they can make joint custody arrangements etc.
If they have an informal plan in place, they can also make an application for consent orders. Consent orders are court orders that make their informal parenting plans more legally binding.
This is necessary to ensure that each party sticks to their commitments according to the parenting plan. If a party breaches a consent order, they can be penalised as this is considered to be a contempt of court.
Only in situations where the parties are unable to reach agreements, they will be required to approach family court. Family courts will then assess the situation and make parenting orders based on the best interests of the child.
Western Australia Family Court: How To Get Parenting Orders?
Before approaching the Family Court of Western Australia, parties are required to attend family dispute resolution. They are also required to show proof that they have attended family dispute resolution and failed to reach an agreement through that.
Notably, in case there is a history of family or domestic violence in the family, the parties can be exempted from attending family dispute resolution. They can directly make a court application for parenting orders.
As discussed above, depending on the circumstances of the case, the parenting orders will include details regarding amount of time the child can spend with each parent.
There are many options the courts can consider such as:
- The children can spend equal time with each parent;
- They can spend substantial or significant time with each parent;
- Any other possible arrangements
Family Lawyers For Your Needs
At JB Solicitors, we have family lawyers who are committed to reaching best possible outcomes for all parties involved. Matters related to divorce such as parenting and property settlement can be extremely stressful to deal with. This is why it is necessary to get legal advice from expert professionals.
Reach out to us today.